Equality of Access to Services and Employment for People from Asian Communities

Introduction

This paper is one of a suite of documents used as part of our Community Integrated Risk Management planning. A number of groups have been identified as potentially being at greater risk of fire or are potentially not accessing services such as Safe and Well visits. There is a range of equal access cases presented which require focus and additional resources to evaluate further whether this is the case. In the public consultation, we will ask people in our communities to work with us to understand further any issues from their perspectives. We also want to work in partnership to re-design services or access pathways where needed.

There are a number of other separate documents relating to becoming an employer of choice for people from Asian communities. Issues are outlined in this document as a means of underlining the link between more engagement with communities for access to services and how that makes us a more attractive employer and vice versa.

Further understanding of Equal Access

As a public service focused on excellent service to our customers, we need to ensure equality of access to our services for every person and those in temporary residence or transit through the County.

We know through our fire investigation and Operational Assurance processes that certain groups are more likely to have a fire, and they include people who are living with Dementia, mobility issues, and mental health issues.

There are however other groups who aren’t necessarily showing as being at higher risk of a fire, but they may not be accessing our services such as safe and well visits or reporting fires because of other barriers which may be language, perceived prejudice and other societal factors.

Equality of access means actively seeking to engage these groups who may be unaware or choosing not to access services from us and other public sector providers.

We need to work to reduce fire risk and other life risks across all the people, and that needs different approaches. Within our equality of access approach, we also need to:

  • Identify all the communities and customers that make up the FRS area.
  • Consider how we could improve the provision of services as well as access to employment opportunities with FRS to include all our communities across a range of variables including ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age.
  • Learn from and enhance good practice identified through equality monitoring.
  • Use the results of equality monitoring to mitigate any adverse impact of our services and employment processes on groups within our diverse communities.
  • Eliminate any unlawful discrimination identified through equality monitoring.
  • Promote good community relations.
  • Use appropriate engagement techniques including social marketing to inform and focus on behaviours to help customers adopt safer ways of living.

Data, academic evidence and case studies along with personal experience have informed our people impact assessments, these now need refining by contributions and insights from Asian led groups, e.g., charities and faith groups.

Fire Services equally need to consider how we look at our service provision. It is important to note there is little evidence that people from Asian communities are more at risk of fires or road traffic crashes because of their ethnicity; however, ethnicity-based hate crime is well documented. (The Home Office reported 76,000 cases in 2020, alone).

Evidence of fires is more related to socio-economic factors. (We have focus here on socio-economic factors, but we must be mindful that race, and racism play a part as to why certain ethnic groups experience socio-economic disadvantages giving rise to the socio-economic factors identified. It is a circular and an interlinked process) The evidence presented here is therefore an amalgam of work carried out by many organisations, which suggests some people from Asian communities may be at more risk of fire because of prevailing social or economic history and current discrimination.

Consideration of these factors are presented here to form a case for our further commitment to getting informative data and evidence, recognising the reality of lived experience and needs assessment. At the heart of this work is a pledge to ensure we are tackling racism and discrimination in our workplace and society.

Why now? We are refreshing our commitment to anti-racism and equality of access as part of our next five-year customer safety strategy.

Asian Communities in the UK - Contextual background

Asian means belonging to or relating to Asia. British people primarily use this term to refer to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In contrast, Americans use this term to refer to China, Korea, Thailand, Japan, or Vietnam. An Asian is a person who comes from or is associated with a country or region in Asia. (Collins English Dictionary, 2020). Some people may not like to be grouped in this way, but we use the term Asian based on statistical analysis based on how data is collected.

In England and Wales there have been ethnicity questions in the census since 1991, In the most recent census (2011) in England and Wales there were 4,213,531 people identifying as Asian (7.5% of the population) with a further 341,727 people of dual Asian/White dual or mixed heritage (0.6% of the population). The Asian/Asian British subgrouping include:

Ethnicity Number of people % of the Population in England and Wales % of Asian Population in England and Wales
Indian 1,412,958 2.5 33.5
Pakistani 1,124,511 2 26.7
Bangladeshi 447,201 0.8 10.6
*Asian Other 835,720 1.5 19.8
Chinese 393,141 0.7 9.3

*The Race Disparity Unit (2020) identified the Other Asian category comprised 18% Sri Lankan, 15% Filipino, 8% Afghan, 7% Nepalese. This grouping also includes some third-generation Asians, Asians of mixed parentage, people from Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives Islands and some from the Middle East. These categorisations will remain for the 2021 census.

Categorisations for Scotland and for Northern Ireland differ, all categorisations can be found here. 85% of Asian people generally report that they feel a sense of belonging to their local neighbourhood, feeling it is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. (Race Disparity Unit Report, 2018)

More than 95% of British Asian people live in England, with the largest numbers continuing to be in London with over 980,000 residents, and then the West Midlands with almost 500,000. Leicester, Harrow, Hounslow and Brent have the highest concentrations of British Asian people, with more than 20% of residents hailing from the Indian subcontinent.

Nine per cent of the UK’s 0-17-year-olds are Asian, and the age distribution in the Asian community continues to be considerably younger than the nation as a whole. Almost 79% are below 45 years, compared to a national average of just over 58%.

The main religions of Asian people are Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. The Indian community is mainly Hindu, Sikh and Muslim but also in smaller numbers, Jain, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Christian. Some East African Asians are Ismaili Muslims, a Shi’a denomination, whose spiritual leader is the Aga Khan. The South Asian communities from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are predominantly Muslim. Some South Asians are Jains and Buddhists.

Most of the community comes from three areas of the subcontinent: the Punjab (Pakistan and India), Gujarat (India) and north-east Bengal (Bangladesh). Some Guajarati’s and Punjabis came to Britain from East Africa, especially Kenya and Uganda. The main languages are Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali (or Bangla), Hindi, Urdu and English.

Asian communities similar to other groups do need to be viewed in terms of their intersectionality, noting also that there are significant differences between and within the various Asian sub-communities, including between first and subsequent generations (for example the likelihood of mixed marriages). That said, it is well documented that Covid has disproportionately impacted people of an Asian heritage.

South Asians

In the UK, the term South Asian usually refers to people from the Indian subcontinent. In the UK, South Asian minority groups include Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi’s and other Asians who include Sri Lankans, as well as third-generation Asians, Asians of mixed parentage, people from Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives’ Islands and some from the Middle East.

The main religions are Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. The Indian community is mainly Hindu, Sikh and Muslim. There are also Jains and Buddhists. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities are each predominantly Muslim.

Most of the community comes from three areas of the subcontinent: the Punjab (Pakistan and India), Gujarat (India) and north-east Bengal (Bangladesh). Some Guajarati’s and Punjabis came to Britain from East Africa, especially Kenya and Uganda. The main languages are Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali (or Bangla), Hindi, Urdu and English. The majority of South Asians live in the major cities and large towns throughout the UK.

South Asians – Historical context

There have been south Asians in the UK for hundreds of years. The 1660 Navigation Act restricted the number of non-English sailors employed by the East India Company, resulting in some South Asian immigrants settling in Britain and setting up businesses.

Pakistani and Indian men were recruited mainly from the Punjab in the 1950s and 1960s to resolve manual labour shortages in the post-Second World War reconstruction of Britain. They worked on the railways, at Heathrow Airport, in the Midlands iron foundries, in Sheffield and Scunthorpe steelworks, in a rubber factory in Southall (London), and in textiles factories in Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Asian doctors were also recruited for the new National Health Service. Many of the immigrants were from rural areas and had lost their homes and jobs when India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1947. Most early South Asian migrants knew little or no English. There may also be literacy considerations, that the person may not be able to read their own language but only speak this.

Their social life centred round temples, mosques and cultural associations. Some married British women, but most sent money home to their extended families. From the 1960s, the families began to join them in Britain, family reunification increased in the 1970s and 1980s. Many South Asian businesses in retail, other services and manufacturing were set up with family members as the main workforce.

From 1968 and 1974, Punjabi and Gujarati business owners were thrown out of Kenya and Uganda respectively, and many came to Britain.

The decline in British manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s badly affected the South Asian community, but they adapted to the service sector, the number of restaurants and Asian owned corner shops increased rapidly. By 1991, about one-quarter of the community was self-employed.

The events of 11 September 2001 (9/11) have affected the South Asian community, who account for most of the Muslims in Britain. Racist incidents and police surveillance of South Asians and those who appeared to be Muslim increased, the distrust of the Muslim community by mainstream British society increased with the launching of the ‘War on Terror’, along with the 7 July 2005 public transport bombings in London. Racist incidents against the Muslim community, including violent attacks, rose. Muslim South Asian women who wore the veil were particularly targeted. Votes for the anti-immigrant far right increased four-fold from 2001 to 2005 and action, intended to reassure mainstream Britain, has, in some cases, alienated segments of the Muslim community. The Prevention campaign, introduced in 2003, is particularly controversial

Workers of Bangladeshi heritage have the lowest median hourly earnings of any ethnic group, earning 20% less than their white British counterparts. Those of Pakistani heritage fared just a little better. The challenges facing many workers of Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage include the discrimination faced by Muslims in general. Muslims are the most disadvantaged religious minority in education, employment, housing and health. (Social Mobility Commission, 2017) only one in five Muslims in the economically active population are in full-time employment, compared with one in three for the population as a whole in England and Wales. The reasons outlined by young Muslims, many belonging to South Asian communities, included a lack of Muslim teachers and other mentors in school, discriminatory recruitment practices, and the added discrimination faced by Muslim women wearing headscarves.

There is a more detailed ethnicity report for people from the Indian ethnic group in England and Wales compared with White British people based on the 2011 Census. The Race Disparity Unit has undertaken some more detailed analysis of those of Indian Heritage. In 2011, half (50.2%) of the Indian population lived in 17 of the then 348 local authorities. Leicester was home to the largest Indian population, with 6.6% of all Indian people living there, followed by Birmingham (4.6%) and Harrow (4.5%). 42.9% of people from the Indian ethnic group were born in the UK, 41.9% were born in Southern Asia and 11.1% were born in South and Eastern Africa (for example, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania – see East African Asians below). Indian people born in South and Eastern Africa were more clustered than those born in the UK or Southern Asia, with 11.0% living in Harrow and 10.6% living in Leicester. 8.3% of Indian people lived in the most deprived neighbourhoods, the lowest percentage out of all ethnic groups and comparable with White British people (8.6%) (England, 2012/13)

In 2011, 18 to 34-year-olds made up one-third (33.4%) of the Indian population and only 12.0% of Indian people were aged 60 and above (compared with 25.6% of White British people) (ONS 2013). This partly reflects increases in immigration from India since the 1950s.

In 1951, India was the third most common country of birth for people born outside the UK. From 1961 until 2001, it was the second most common, and in 2011 it became the most common country of birth for people born outside the UK.

Indian households are 50% less likely to be lone parents with dependents and twice as likely to be married couples with dependents as white British households. They were also significantly less likely to comprise lone pensioners.

Children of Indian ethnic origin, do well at school in terms of attainment, tending to occupy professional occupations. Although often financially secure and comparable with White British statistics, there is a wider employment gender gap in the Indian ethnic group. This in part is due to the fact that Indian women were twice as likely as Indian men to be economically inactive, most commonly because they were looking after their family or home.

South Asian – current issues

Inequalities among different communities are evident: whilst often occupying professional occupations, 1 in 4 of the Indian population is in poverty and the unemployment rate is slightly higher than amongst the white British population. Unemployment levels are considerably higher among Bangladeshi’s 15% and Pakistanis 10%.

There is concern regarding the treatment of women within some parts of the South Asian communities, where women’s rights are not respected in relation to national laws regarding gender equality. A key issue is forced marriage, a practice outlawed in 2014 but as yet for which there have been very few prosecutions. It is also known that there are a small number of LGBT+ persons of South Asian heritage also seeking help from authorities on account of being forced to undergo heterosexual marriages by their families.

Since around 2000, Indian immigrants have been from other parts of India like Kerala (South India) and Diu and Daman, which was a former Portuguese territory near Gujurat. Some of these communities are less established and, much like the newer Chinese immigrants, are undocumented and exploited. For example, the Asians working in textile factories in Leicester during Covid-19.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, hate crimes have increased against Muslims, particularly those belonging to South Asian communities, bearing the brunt of numerous conspiracy theories and been falsely accused of having contributed to the spread of the virus. Tell MAMA, a monitoring group, recorded a 40% increase in Islamophobic cyber hate during lockdown compared with the year before. According to a 2020 report published by the same organisation, drawing on the experiences of Muslim South Asian communities in the north-east of England, 70% of respondents experience daily or regular anti-Muslim racism, and 75% feel that the situation is getting worse. Muslim women are particularly targeted.

East African Asians

East African Asians include Gujarati’s and Punjabis who had migrated from the Indian subcontinent to Africa and then from Africa to the UK. They include Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. Some are Ismaili Muslims, a Shi’a denomination, whose spiritual leader is the Aga Khan. There are some Jains and Zoroastrians.

Between 1968 and 1974, the main immigration period, over 70,000 Kenyan and Ugandan Asians arrived in Britain. East African Asians are not distinguished from other people from the Indian subcontinent in official figures.

East African Asians – Historical context

British rule in East Africa enhanced the position of Gujarati entrepreneurs who had operated there for centuries, and also introduced a large, though mainly temporary, population of Punjabi labourers.

Following Ugandan independence from Britain in 1962 and Kenyan independence in 1963, the governments of these countries introduced “Africanisation” policies. Around 50,000 of the 80,000 Asians living in Uganda and Kenya opted for British rather than Ugandan or Kenyan citizenship.

In 1962, the Commonwealth Immigration Act subjected Commonwealth citizens to immigration controls for the first time. Those initially coming to Britain had been prosperous business and property owners in Africa, but unable to transfer their wealth, they found themselves in poor-quality housing and low-paid work. They also found their British status did not allow them to enter Britain as freely as they had thought.

In 1968, alarmed by the influx of East African Asians, the British government tightened controls, requiring immigrants to show a close connection with the UK. In 1972, General Amin ordered all Asians out of Uganda, and some 28,600 out of the 50,000 British passport holders came to Britain, by this time, immigrants had to obtain work permits unless their parents or grandparents were born in the UK. Some East African Asians invested in small general grocery and newsagent shops, which they ran as family businesses. Others invested in manufacturing and trading businesses on a larger scale.

East African Asians – Current issues

Some east African Asians have faced racial discrimination from the start. Those of the Muslim faith, like other Muslim communities in the UK, now have to cope with increasing levels of social prejudice as outlined above.

The Chinese Community

The 2011 census recorded 433,150 Chinese people (0.7% of the total UK population). According to official data, Chinese now make up the largest group of immigrants from any country into the UK. However, there are an increasing number of undocumented Chinese immigrants, who face exploitation, poor living conditions and invisibility. In London, for instance, some estimates suggest that the Chinese population is twice as large as official figures would suggest due to the large undocumented population residing there (Minority Rights, 2020).

There are three main linguistic groups. The largest is Cantonese, followed by Hakka and Mandarin. Many versions of Cantonese are spoken. Hokien, Teow Cheow and Hainanese are also spoken.

The community comes from Hong Kong, mainland China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore. However, the demographics of the Chinese population are evolving as increasing numbers now originate from mainland China.

The Chinese community is widely dispersed throughout the UK, but the main concentration, around half, is in London. There are established Chinatowns in large cities, such as London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle upon Tyne. There are significant Chinese communities in other major cities and towns, such as Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Bristol, Sheffield, Cambridge and Milton Keynes. There are also Chinese families living in suburban areas and small towns around the UK. Undocumented Chinese immigrants work mostly in food processing, catering, agriculture and construction. Some are rejected asylum seekers. The

Chinese Community-Historical Context

Britain’s Chinese diaspora is the oldest in Western Europe. Migration waves can be traced to British colonialism. The First Opium War, from 1839 to 1842, led to China ceding Hong Kong to the UK and the expansion of British influence on the mainland.

There have been Chinese in Britain from the 1800s, the first Chinese communities in the UK were established in port cities like Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool and London. However, the first permanent large-scale settlement of Chinese occurred in the 1950s, when Britain’s economic boom and labour shortages led to a relaxation of immigration laws to encourage immigrants from overseas British and Commonwealth countries. In the 20th century, there was further immigration from Hong Kong and from the Chinese Diaspora’s in former British colonies like Malaysia and Singapore.

The Census in 2011 outlined the Chinese population to be concentrated in Manchester, with 3.4% of all Chinese people living there. This was followed by Birmingham (3.2%) and Barnet, Tower Hamlets and Southwark (all at 2.1%).

Some Chinese in Britain originate from poor rural areas, Chinese migrants from Hong Kong’s New Territories often set up restaurants. Other educated, wealthy Chinese came from Malaysia and Singapore to take up professional jobs and set up businesses. In the 1970s, Chinese boat people from Vietnam were granted asylum. In the 1990s, a second wave of immigrants from Hong Kong came to Britain following the British handover of Hong Kong to China, again these migrants were generally well-educated, and many went into business or the professions. However, they have been followed by immigrants from mainland China, many took up low-paid, exploitative jobs through Chinese networks.

It is now estimated that just under a quarter (23.7%) of people from the Chinese ethnic group were born in the UK, over half (55.3%) were born in Eastern Asia and 13.4% were born in South-East Asia. Extensive family, business, trade and educational links mean that there are migrant and expatriate Chinese as well as their descendants living across the UK and participating in many walks of life.

Higher education is a key component of this exchange between countries, with UK universities hosting 120,000 students from China in 2019.

Like most ethnic minority groups in the UK, the population is generally younger than that of White British people. The 2011 census indicated 25.2% of Chinese people were 18 to 24 years old. This younger age profile of the Chinese group could reflect the high proportion of students aged 16 and over within the Chinese population and this group migrating to the UK (ONS, 2013).

Whilst, it is only 8.0% of Chinese people aged 60 and above. The older generation often does not speak English well, accessibility because of language difficulties in general is a barrier. For example: anti-Chinese hate crimes thought to be non-existent were, in fact, unreported by their victims, sometimes because the police lacked translators.

Chinese children do well in school and higher education, and often undertake professional occupations. Adults are less likely to be homeowners, usually renting privately, few Chinese occupy social housing. COVID-19 has seen increased hate crime towards people thought to be of Chinese heritage.

Chinese Community – Current issues

The exploitation experienced by undocumented Chinese immigrants was tragically highlighted when 23 Chinese cockle pickers were cut off and drowned by the tide in Morecambe Bay in 2004. Although the Gangmaster Licensing Act came into effect in 2006 in the wake of this tragedy, exploitative practices continue.

Undocumented Chinese migrants often live in cramped, substandard housing, in debt to and under the control of the ‘snakeheads’ who they have paid to bring them to Britain. Because they are in the UK without documentation and many do not speak English, they are afraid or unable to seek help from the wider community.

Debt bondage appears to be a crucial underlying reason, with victims being trafficked to the UK and ending up in modern-day slavery. In 2018, 451 Chinese were identified as victims of slavery, representing the fourth most common country of origin; of course, this figure is probably just a fraction of the total number, with many cases going unreported. At the same time, the Chinese community’s composition is changing. Due to stricter controls, including on employers, by the UK authorities as well as greater economic opportunities at home.

Meanwhile, the number of mainland Chinese coming to the UK to study at university has more than doubled in the past decade, and many more stay on to seek work in the UK.

The issues confronting the community are shifting as well, and there are worries that soaring rents will displace London’s Chinatown from its increasingly desirable central location.

A key and growing issue for the UK’s Chinese community is hate crime. According to media reports based on police records, the number of hate incidents against Chinese in the first three months of 2020 was triple that of the same period the year before. Anti-Chinese political rhetoric by US President Donald Trump is thought to be a contributing factor, both with regard to trade and also the Covid-19 pandemic, which he and other high-profile figures have blamed on China. This has led to fears that racism against British Chinese is going unaddressed. A contributing factor is the lack of political representation. The very first British Chinese MP to be elected to parliament is Alan Mak, and he only took his seat for the Conservatives in 2015.

The Workplace in Britain for people of Asian Heritage

In 2015, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found those with a Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage were most likely to end up in customer service occupations and process, plant and machine occupations. Some of this may be related to geography, as explained in the report contextual chapters, although there is little doubt that insurmountable barriers do hinder certain groups in a number of sectors.

The types of jobs that ethnic minorities find themselves in unsurprisingly impact on wider income inequality. This is particularly stark for some ethnic groups. For instance, between 2011 and 2015, individuals from a Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin were far more likely to be in low paying work than White workers. However, there are some success stories, changes in employment patterns over time could be described as positive for the Indian and to some extent, the Chinese communities, ethnic groups – today there are now more Indian workers who are in the top earnings decile (top 10%) compared to White workers. However, the key message is still one of enduring ethnic minority disadvantage compared with White British comparisons. Some key underlying variances include:

Minority groups are disproportionately affected by youth unemployment:

  • There are high rates of unemployment amongst Pakistani/ Bangladeshi women.
  • High levels of economic inactivity remain amongst Pakistani/Bangladeshi groups.
  • Female rates of inactivity are significantly higher than the male rates in all groups.
  • Employment gaps persist across all regions in the UK, but are particularly high in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, Northern Ireland and Wales.
  • The labour force exits and entry probabilities do not differ between Indian, Caribbean and White women. However, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are less likely to enter and more likely to exit the labour market.

Self-employment is an important form of employment for Black and minority ethnic men, particularly Pakistani men, with over 30% of Pakistani men in employment being self-employed, concentrated in sectors such as retail, restaurants and taxi-driving. Self-employment rates are lower for the Chinese and Indian groups. Amongst women, self-employment rates are significantly lower than the male self-employment rates for all ethnic groups. Cultural differences need to be considered for these reasons, e.g. do they want to enter the workforce, are they looking after families, carers etc?

In terms of opportunities for progression, 35% of Pakistani, 33% of Indian employees report feeling that they have been overlooked for promotion because of their ethnicity. Black and ethnic minority groups tended to have unequal access to opportunities for development, often because of a lack of clear information on training opportunities or progression routes within their workplaces. It was also found that this can be made worse if progression relies on opaque or informal processes, if there is a lack of representative role models or mentors at higher levels within their workplaces to provide support and advice, and/or if there is a gap between equality and diversity policies and practice in the workplace (MacGregor-Smith Report, 2016).

Looking at the public sector specifically, the MacGregor-Smith report identified people of Black and Ethnic Minority Backgrounds were less likely to be identified as ‘high potential’ in similar proportions as White employees. In addition to the evidence that Black and ethnic minority individuals struggle to achieve the same progression opportunities as their White counterparts, they are also consistently underrepresented at managerial and senior positions.

Business in the Community (BITC) RACE AT WORK (2015) report that more than a quarter (28%) of all BAME employees witnessed or experienced racial harassment or bullying from managers in the last 5 years. 32% of BAME employees have witnessed or experienced racial harassment or bullying from colleagues in the last 5 years. Similar proportions of employees from a mixed race (25%), Asian (29%) or black (30%) background have experienced or witnessed racial harassment or bullying from managers in the last 5 years. Employees are also experiencing racial harassment and bullying from colleagues. Similar proportions of Asian and black employees (17%), and 12% of mixed race employees, report that they have personally experienced racial harassment or bullying from colleagues and from managers. Employees from a Pakistani, Bangladeshi, other Asian or Black African backgrounds are reporting the highest rates of racial harassment or bullying from colleagues and from managers (see Figure 6 of the report).

Why Fire and Rescue Services need to focus on Equality of Access to Services and Employment Opportunities for Asian Communities

In England, adults from a Bangladeshi and Pakistani background, primarily those in the older age groups, were the most likely not to speak English well or at all. There are regional differences in the proportions of people who are able to speak English for the Asian ethnic groups. The West Midlands has a higher proportion of people in these ethnic groups who cannot speak English, and in this region the inability to speak English is most common among Bangladeshi and Pakistani people – around 4% and 3% respectively cannot speak English. Almost 3% of Indian people in the East Midlands, 3% of Bangladeshi people in the North West and nearly 3% of those who identify as Arab or in the Other ethnic group in Yorkshire and the Humber cannot speak English (Race Disparity Unit Report, 2018).

Around 1 in 4 people from an Asian background are in persistent poverty. Patterns of inequality and poverty exist within Asian Communities, people of Bangladeshi heritage as a group show a very consistent pattern of inequality and relative income – they have the lowest income inequality and are consistently the worst off. They also have the highest poverty rates, suggesting it makes sense to identify Bangladeshi’s as a group when investigating disadvantage. It is perhaps then unsurprising that households of Bangladeshi, Pakistani backgrounds (alongside Black and Other White people) are more likely to receive income related benefits and tax credits than those in other ethnic groups. In contrast, there is a wide spread of income across the Chinese population, with significant numbers achieving incomes at the top of the distribution. While this makes average income and earnings high, inequality levels are also very high, creating somewhat of a subgrouping with above-average poverty rates.

Among Indian people, there are high levels of earnings and also high inequality in income and earnings (though not as striking as for the Chinese group) and above-average poverty rates. In order to explore the causes of these poverty rates and the extent of inequality, it may be helpful to investigate the experience of different subsections of the group or differences in generation. For example, some research looking at religion alongside ethnicity has suggested more advantaged groups (Hindus) and less advantaged groups (Muslims) with a more complicated relationship for Sikhs (Longhi, et al., 2009; Platt, 2005).

The ethnic minority population is more likely to live in areas of deprivation, especially Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people. In terms of income, around 1 in 3 households in the Indian or Other Asian groups had a gross weekly income of £1,000 or more, and households in these groups were twice as likely to be in this income bracket as Pakistani households. A quarter (25%) of Bangladeshi households’ income came from benefits and tax credits (excluding the state retirement pension) as did 18% of Pakistani people’s incomes. Over half of households in these ethnic groups were in receipt of state support, particularly child tax credit and child benefit. Chinese people were the least likely to be in receipt of state support, with just 3 in 10 claiming any (Race Disparities Report, 2018). Although the Gujarati section of the community comprises over 200,000 households in Britain, with around 3.8 people per household and 81.7% of households owning their property.

As a group, ethnic minority households are also much more likely to rent privately than White British households and to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on rent, regardless of whether they rent from a social or private landlord. Their housing tends to be of lower quality, particularly among households of Pakistani origin, and overcrowding is more common, especially among households of Bangladeshi origin.

Overcrowding affects ethnic minority households disproportionately, 30.9% of people who have emigrated from Pakistan or Bangladesh live in overcrowded accommodation. 14.8 Geographically, London had one of the highest rates of overcrowding of all regions of England (Race Disparities Report, 2018).

In terms of criminal justice, Asians experience similar inequalities in terms of sentencing and likelihood of arrest to Black people. Despite adults in the Mixed ethnic group being the most likely to experience a crime, Asian adults feel vulnerable to crime, around 3 in 10 Bangladeshi and Pakistani adults thought they were likely to become a victim of crime in the next year (Race Disparities Report, 2018).

In 2016, adults from an Indian background reported the highest average ratings out of 10 for life satisfaction (7.81), feeling that things they do in life are worthwhile (7.90), and happiness (7.75), and although most ethnic groups have shown improvement in these measures since 2012 Bangladeshi and Chinese adults and those from Other Asian backgrounds showed no improvement in any measure. In terms of levels of anxiety, Chinese adults reported the lowest (and therefore better) ratings out of 10 for anxiety (2.72) (Race Disparities Report, 2018).

Most Asian groups express lower levels of satisfaction and less positive experiences of NHS General Practice services than other ethnic groups, and there are differences in the prevalence of mental ill-health, its treatment and outcomes between ethnic groups (Race Disparities Report, 2018). Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and Chinese patients have been among the least likely to report a positive experience of getting a GP appointment or of seeing a GP.

For those 65 and over, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people, – have particularly poor health related quality of life, taking account of their mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain and discomfort, anxiety and depression. By contrast, the highest related quality of life is those in the Other Asian group.

As with all Asian families. More and more second/third generation children are choosing not to live with their parents, resulting in older Asians who were reliant on their children for navigating life, living alone.

There were wide differences between ethnic groups across a range of health-related behaviours and preventable poor outcomes. The picture is complex, as the ethnic groups exhibited both healthy and unhealthy behaviours. For example, White British adults were the most likely to eat the recommended portions of fruit and vegetables each day but were also among the most likely to be overweight (having a Body Mass Index of 25 and over) and to drink alcohol at harmful levels.

Adults in the Mixed group were the most likely to be physically active, but also the most likely to smoke. (Race Disparities Report, 2018).

Accepting this complexity, genetic factors does appear to contribute to the ethnic differences in the prevalence of coronary heart disease, as exemplified by Asian Indians in whom the incidence of premature coronary heart disease is among the highest reported for any major ethnic group worldwide. This genetic predisposition can be exaggerated by nutritional and environmental factors (2008). In the UK, the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) is up to 50% higher in first-generation South Asians, (those at highest risk are the Bangladeshi population) than in the white European population.

People of South Asian heritage are susceptible to central obesity (fat around the middle) increasing insulin resistance and therefore risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of CHD and of having a heart attack. It is important to recognise the interdependencies of other factors, such as a poor diet or smoking, which are not unique to Asian communities but nevertheless impactive factors where they exist. As mentioned, studies suggest South Asian people, especially women, do less physical activity and many South Asian communities are in areas of deprivation, adding further complexity. For example, in deprived areas, people are often on lower incomes and may have less access to healthier foods. The highest death rates occur in Bangladeshi communities in east London, which has many pockets of deprivation.

Rates of cigarette and tobacco chewing are also higher in Bangladeshi communities. Shisha smoking is popular among some South Asian groups. Flavoured shisha can be misleading for younger people who don’t realise it is often tobacco-based.

Education – There is a varied picture in terms of educational attainment for children of Asian heritage. For example; 97% of Chinese children beyond 16 stay in education. Indian pupils were much more likely to meet expected standards and make progress than Pakistani pupils (for example, 65% of Indian pupils met the expected standards for reading, writing and maths at KS2 compared with 47% of Pakistani pupils) (Race Disparities Report, 2018).

Employment rates have increased for all ethnic groups since 2004, with corresponding decreases in the unemployment and inactivity rates. In particular, the inactivity rate for Pakistani and Bangladeshi people has decreased substantially since 2004 from 49% to 39%. However, nearly 2 out of 5 working-age people in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi group were economically inactive. In addition to this group, those from Other Asian backgrounds (excluding Indian) were also more likely to be economically inactive than White British people in every age categorisation (Race Disparities Report, 2018).

Fire and other incident risks for Asian and Asian British People

Risk of Fire

As already mentioned, the intersectionality of race, religion, culture is complex and broad reaching when considering Asian and Asian British people, Corcoran et al. (2011) concluded that when considering ethnicity in studies of fire risk, it is important to appreciate whether ‘ethnicity’ is defined in terms of ‘race’ or ‘country of origin’. Similarly, Clark et al. (2014) commented on the different levels of fire risks between different communities and areas, and discussed the socio-economic and cultural conditions and contexts such as fire-risk knowledge and practices including socio-cultural norms, routines and practices relating to smoking, cooking and candle use that could affect fire risk.

Hastie (2017) validated earlier studies by Corcoran (2007, 2011) that as with age (for age – not necessarily associated with rates of fire incidents, has been reported as strongly linked to numbers of fire casualties), there is some evidence that certain ethnic groups do experience more fire, although this is the result of co-linearity with other factors. In particular, their analysis suggests rates of deprivation, numbers of single parents and a high proportion of people who have never worked were key factors rather than a clear relationship to specific ethnic groups.

The influence of poverty and social deprivation was a consistent finding in other reports, with poor housing quality, unemployment and lack of economic activity, and lower educational attainment being aspects particularly noted. Household structure was identified in a number of studies, with lone parents and adults living alone both emerging as predictors.

The English Housing Survey 2018-19 (EHS), found overcrowding is more common for renters and is more common in ethnic minority households compared to White British households, with BAME families twice as likely to be severely overcrowded. Private rented homes were also more likely to be damp, less likely to have at least one working smoke alarm and were more likely to contain hazards such as infestations and electrical dangers that pose a risk to life. Steinbach et al. (2007) also identified a link between ethnicity and area level deprivation: in the least deprived deciles of census super output areas, an average 1.5% of the population is ‘Black’ and 6.6% is ‘Asian’, compared with an average 23.2% ‘Black’ and 15.6% ‘Asian’ in the most deprived deciles.

The English Housing Survey (2016) identified Households with a white Home Reference person (HRP) were more likely to have a working smoke alarm than households with an ethnic minority HRP (86%). The disparity in the prevalence of working smoke alarms between white and ethnic minority HRP households was greater in 2008-09 (85% and 75% respectively) than in 2016-17 (91% and 86% respectively, but still existed. The report also identified that the likelihood of living in a home with a serious fire hazard was similar irrespective of the ethnicity of the HRP. However, conversely, it was identified that households with relative low income were more likely to live in a home with a serious fire hazard compared with other households.

Given that Around 1 in 4 people from an Asian background are in persistent poverty, households of Bangladeshi, Pakistani backgrounds in particular, this is an area that requires greater research. It cannot be ignored that some 85% cent of the 67 permanent residents of Grenfell who died in the fire were from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. They included 32 people from the Middle East and North Africa, nine from East Africa and seven who were white British or Irish. There were also five from West Africa, five from Bangladesh or with Bangladeshi heritage, three from the Caribbean, one from the Philippines, one resident from Columbia and one person with unidentified BAME heritage.

Road Safety

There has been limited research on ethnic inequalities in road traffic injury risks in the UK. Some studies have identified ‘differences’, but these do not provide any national pattern of which particular communities are at higher risk, and there is little understanding of ‘what’ about ethnicity might lead to any differences identified. Steinbeck et al. (2007) looked at data for London and determined the data available only allowed the aggregation of figures for ‘Black’, ‘Asian’ or ‘White’ which obscure differences between communities. They stated it was difficult to calculate accurate rates for each grouping, as the ethnicity of injured road users is classified by the police (through STATS19) using different categories from those used (in the census) to estimate population numbers. If there are large or systematic errors in how individuals are classified by STATS19 or census data, we could under- or overestimate rates by ethnicity. Further, it is difficult to accurately estimate the size of populations by ethnicity in small areas. That said, they were able to evidence some ethnic inequalities in injury risks.

If, on average, road users in different ethnic groups tend to live in more dangerous traffic environments, or have different patterns of transport or leisure activity, they will be more exposed to injury risk. Data on exposure to traffic is limited, as is any significant differences in the average amounts of walking across ethnic groups.

Given that area deprivation is linked to risk of injury, and more ‘Asian’ people, on average, live in the most deprived areas, we would expect more ‘Asian’ people to be injured. However, these area level effects do not explain all the difference. How far does deprivation affect the risk of road traffic injury within ethnic groupings? Using data obtained for London (Steinbach et al., 2007) in respect of ‘White’ and ‘Asian’ groups, the risk of pedestrian injury was higher for each decile of deprivation (measured by Index of Multiple Deprivation at census super output area level).

For ‘Asian’ children, the injury rates in the most deprived areas were over 4 times higher than for ‘Asian’ children in the least deprived areas.

Analysis based on STATS19 data and area-level measures using London as an example provides only a ‘broad brush’ picture of the relationship between deprivation, ethnicity and road traffic injury. The impact of existing interventions (e.g., 20mph zones) on ethnic inequalities is not understood and further research is needed to understand in detail different patterns of exposure to risk of road traffic injury, particularly for children, and how these relate to deprivation. Steinbach et al., (2007) Identified similar rates of decline in road traffic injury rates across ethnic groups suggesting current strategies are, in general, addressing needs across the population, but pointed out, any intervention designed to address ethnic inequalities needs to be carefully designed in consultation with local communities in order to; avoid ‘victim blaming’, Road Safety teams need to understand the precise risks faced from the perspective of those affected and any programmes need to be appropriate and tailored to community needs. ‘Local communities’ in this context will include neighbourhood communities, but also groups which identify themselves in terms of faith, ethnicity or other communalities (e.g., young people).

Business Safety

Work completed by Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in 2018 “Engaging with Diverse Businesses Rapid Evidence Review” stated that approximately 5% of SMEs within the UK are led by an owner, partner or director from a Black Minority Ethnic background. The proportion of BME led businesses is higher in areas such as London and the Midlands when compared to the national average.

These businesses are more likely to be concentrated in specific industry sectors, such as distribution, hotels and restaurants when compared to the wider SME population. The table below is extracted from this report.

Ethnic Origin of Owners, Partners and Directors (by Industry) Production Distribution Business Services Other Services
Indian 31% 41% 25% 44%
Pakistani 10% 21% 10% 11%
Bangladeshi 0% 0% 10% 10%
Chinese 2% 8% 0% *too small to measure
Other Asian Background 2% 4% 7% 29%
Mixed White and Asian 0% 9% 10% 4%

The proportion of migrants establishing their own business is increasing, with migrants to the UK more likely to set up their own business compared to their UK born counterparts. Factors for this include: a desire to gain status in their community, to pursue an interest or to make more money but also as a result of discrimination in the workplace, which meant they were unable to gain promotion or employment proportionate to their skills and experience.

While many Black and Minority Ethnic-led businesses had awareness of some regulations affecting them, many felt there were barriers which prevented them from fully complying. The barriers include not being aware of where to access information, how to access support (or trusting support available), language and cultural barriers and negative perception towards Local Authority officers based on previous experiences. Some found compliance with regulations to be burdensome and potentially costly. In addition, it was felt that there is a lot of duplication as different regulatory bodies ask for the same or similar information.

While BME-led businesses often do not feel they are treated differently by inspectors to non-BME businesses, they feel that regulatory bodies should be more sensitive towards cultural factors, for example, avoiding inspections during religious holidays or festivals and being more respectful of their culture and faith.

Language barriers both in terms of what is said and how it is said, the use of saying, for example, lost in translation. Language can often be a key factor as to why a business is unable to comply with regulations and many BME-led businesses felt that it would be helpful to have access to information in their native language, in plain English or in a pictorial way that would be easier to understand.

Other Emergencies

Water Safety

Data on use of our water safety provision in terms of ethnicity is not captured. It is not contained within the IRS reporting or the WAID reporting.

We are aware of instances such as Camber Sands in 2016, in which the casualties were from a minority ethnic background and in the absence of meaningful data, would need to look at the factors that may cause difficulty in water. Being able to swim is perhaps a key consideration.

The annual activities report by Sport England identifies that only 11.1% of white British people actively take part in swimming and that proportionate to the representation within the UK population this figure is greater than the percentage of Asian, Chinese or other ethnic groups.

The Sports England systemic review of literature on Black and minority ethnic communities in sport (2009) stated that there is marked under-representation of British Pakistani females (5%), British Bangladeshi females (5.9%) and ‘black all’ females (6%) in swimming, compared to white females (15.8%). But this, too, tells only part of the story. Both Indian and Pakistani groups as a whole have a lower participation rate than white British people; Indian people as a whole are more likely to participate in swimming than Pakistani people; however, within the Indian community women are more likely to swim than men (indeed, participation levels among Indian women are close to the national average). Meanwhile, in the Pakistani community, the opposite is true.

Employment opportunities for Asian and Asian British people in the FRS

As at 31 March 2020, 4% (1,410) of employees in the Fire and Rescue Service England were from an ethnic minority. (National Operational Workforce Bulletin, 2020). The last reference on ethnicity of the workforce in Scotland is believed to be published in the 2016-17 Fire Safety and Organisational Statistics, in which it was identified that less than one per cent of all staff were from an ethnic minority. (NB: 46 per cent of SFRS staff ethnicity at the time was not recorded).(Fire Scotland, 2016:6). Looking at the 4% regarding England in more detail.

All FRSs in England collect and provide ethnicity information to the Home Office; however, many staff members have not completed ethnicity data. The latest, 2020 National Operational Bulletin for Workforce and pensions indicated 4,502 (10.1%) staff did not state an ethnicity. This gap in data, impacts the overall accuracy of the reporting and is a matter Fire and Rescue services need to resolve, understand and address better both in terms of causal factors for the lack of reporting and outcomes in terms of diversification of the workforce.

The proportion of firefighters that were from an ethnic minority group has increased slowly from 3.5 per cent in 2011 (from when consistent data are available) to 4.4 per cent in 2020. This compares with 14.6 per cent of the English population in the 2011 Census. Page 76 of the recent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparity report described how it is important to get better data on the ethnic diversity of public sector workforces. In this case, specifically about teachers, but noting: “The Commission would also welcome similar standards being applied to other public sector workforces; the Race Disparity Unit should coordinate such activity, building on previous work in this area, and reporting regularly on progress.”

Each year from 2011 to 2018, the main cause for the increase in the proportion of firefighters from an ethnic minority group was due to the decrease in white firefighters. From 2019 onwards, however, the main reason is due to an increase in the number of firefighters from an ethnic minority group (up by 75 in 2019 and 42 in 2020) as opposed to a decrease in the number of white firefighters. All four ethnic minority groups were under-represented as firefighters when compared with the general population in the 2011 Census.

It is not possible to look at the data for Asian people specifically in terms of the census reporting categories, as the annual return to the home office is categorised and published nationally for England in the categories in the table below:

2011 Total Number of Employees Asian/Asian British Chinese/Other Minority Ethnic Group (OME) % of Asian Employees % of Chinese /OME Employees
Firefighters 38,061 212 174 0.56% 0.46%
Control Ops 1,407 5 3 0.35% 0.21%
Support Staff 8,143 224 60 2.75% 0.74%
Total Staff 47,611 441 237 0.93% 0.50%
2020
Firefighters 30,298 215 149 0.71% 0.49%
Control Ops 1,053 3 2 0.28% 0.19%
Support Staff 6,717 119 63 2.96 0.94
Total Staff 38,068 418 214 1.09% 0.56%

The combined categorisation of Chinese and Other ethnic minority maybe due to the extremely small numbers, it is important to note that this does then make it difficult to compare with other datasets.

Overall, at 31 March 2020 specifically for Asian/Asian British employees there has been a small incremental change. The reality is, however, this is a very small representation of Asian people amongst our colleagues and the figures speak for themselves. There are no published progression statistics in terms of ethnicity.

From this, it’s reasonable to surmise that the FRS needs to do more to hold themselves accountable and raise its profile initially as a potential employer and then as an employer of choice amongst all Asian members of the communities we serve.

Conclusions

It is not that the groups of people focused on in this paper are hard to reach, it is our duty not to ignore them but to try harder to reach them. It is us that must change in order to serve them better, FRS needs to use a range of activities and/or tools to reach the higher risk elements of the Asian community with its safety messages as well as the whole of the Asian community with its employment message. This is very unlikely to be achieved in isolation, links need to be made by the Service with appropriate representative groups and charities working with disadvantaged communities in different areas. Access to these groups will be achieved, in part at least, through partnership with other statutory bodies such as County Councils, District Councils, Police and Third sector and through faith and other groups. Intelligence around deprivation, language, culture and location will help drive targeted information campaigns, engagement activity and over time inform recruitment practices such as positive action.

It is apparent that there are significant data gaps which hinder organisations’ such as FRS’ when it comes to understanding the needs of the communities it serves across all ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, significant work needs to be done around incident and employment related ethnicity and cultural background data. Without this as we go forward, the Service’s undoubtedly well-intentioned efforts will be severely hampered without the direction that informed use of data would give.

Asian people experiencing hate crime

As outlined in the report, many Asians are of the Muslim faith. Racist or religious hate incidents can take many forms, including verbal and physical abuse, bullying, threatening behaviour, online abuse and damage to property.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Commission for Countering Extremism report of extremists exploiting the crisis. Hate crime toward East Asian and South East Asian has increased by 21%.

Disinformation and fake news targeted at different ‘out-groups’ and minorities can be used to incite hatred, justify violence and divide communities. Themes that have been reported in the UK include:

  • Anti-Western – Islamist extremists have used the COVID-19 pandemic to pursue their own ideological agendas and objectives.
  • Antisemitism – a number of conspiracy theories aimed at blaming the Jewish community have emerged.
  • Anti-Muslim – In an attempt to whip up anti-Muslim hatred, fake news and false narratives showing British Muslims flouting social distancing rules were promoted.
  • Anti-Chinese – It is reported there was a 900% increase in hashtags identified as hateful towards Chinese people on Twitter.

Actions

Partnerships

Working with police at local level to understand Hate Crime priorities and to ensure our offer is made to people who report racially motivated hate crimes.

Be explicit in our offer

Individuals may see Fire in the same category as the police as an organisation that has not been demonstrative of support in the past and so not seek support if they are experiencing domestic violence or external threats. Many will also be unaware of our services, for example re: arson threats. Targeted campaigns through community lead social media, specific charities and NHS services may help us increase the rate of take up of services alongside our activity to increase disclosure for records and monitoring.

Improving Workplaces

We need to recognise the potential for hate crime in the workplace and ensure messages of intolerance of harassment and bullying are in place, training is facilitated, and measures to prevent harassment and hate crime are clear, reviewed and monitored.

Recruitment, Selection, Retention, and progression of people of Asian Heritage

The MacGregor-Smith Race in Workplace Review (2016) stated there is limited academic evidence on what employer practices and policies work best in improving progression of Black and Minority Ethnic at work. A number of studies both internationally and in the UK have found name-blind recruitment could improve the recruitment process. Evidence also suggests that a lack of positive role models may act to discourage individuals from progressing at work. The AFSA Smoke and Mirrors report, 2018 (Section 5) provides a range of activities FRS’s can undertake to help improve the representation and experience of Asian and other minority Representative groups.

The Importance of Data

We all need to undertake monitoring of our workers by ethnicity and, as explained in this report, where possible, nationality.

Monitoring is a process of collecting, analysing and evaluating information. This can be done in a range of ways; questionnaires, surveys, consultation and feedback. It is not however the input but the output of monitoring that is vital, as to fail to act on the findings would reduce monitoring to a tick-box exercise of little value.

Monitoring also makes good business sense. As part of an effective management information system, it will enable managers to manage on the basis of a realistic assessment of the organisation, rather than on gut feeling. The purpose of monitoring people’s ethnic background is to:

  • Identify possible inequalities
  • Investigate the underlying causes of inequalities
  • Remove any unfairness.

A significant causal factor of staff leaving an organisation is the culture. An employer cannot claim to be committed to Tackling Racism in the Workplace if it does not carry out monitoring, as there is no mechanism to measure the effectiveness of equal opportunities policies and initiatives.

Actions

Diverse interview panels

Given the increasing recognition of the impact of unconscious bias, diversity in interview panels might be one way of ensuring that applicants and progression candidates from minority ethnic backgrounds are not unfairly disadvantaged.

Equality and diversity management systems/HR practices.

Armstrong et al. found organisations with high-performance work systems (generous HR practices and policies) and equality and diversity management systems benefited from higher labour productivity, lower voluntary turnover and increased rates of innovation.

Role models, coaching, sponsorship and mentoring

This is vital. Staff from Asian heritage are missing in senior managerial positions. In addition, to a lack of role models in senior positions at work for some individuals from some ethnic groups, it is also missing in their communities or families. It was also established where possible the role models should be from the same background as Asian employees were the most likely group to feel that was important.

Ongoing learning about EDI and skills development.

Commitment at senior level to EDI is necessary, as it requires years to embed the culture needed to be truly inclusive.

Effective Data Monitoring

At a national level, there needs to be consistency with census categorisation, reporting of progression and more comprehensive exit reporting in terms of Ethnicity.

At Fire Service level, internal monitoring of statistics against all workforce systems such as turnover, grievances, sickness and exit data to search for any issues which indicate discrimination, internal succession and promotion decisions.

Cultural Awareness Training.

Training which supports recognition that applicants for jobs internally and externally bring their own cultural understanding and behaviours to interviews, so careful questioning is important along with other ways to triangulate information.

Comprehensive support for managers in how to manage the performance of diverse teams.

There is evidence that some managers can be frightened to tackle performance issues and give feedback to BAME staff as they are worried, they will be accused of racism. This in turn then leads BAME staff finding themselves with less performance support than is needed, and it becomes a vicious circle. This is an important conversation in any FRS as to how everyone understands that performance needs to be managed, and the skills needed to do it well and be inclusive.

Recruitment and selection checklists

As a minimum, FRS’ benefit from consistently questioning their commitment to a diverse workforce. Checking:

  • Does the composition of the workforce reflect the local population? (Information on the local population is available from the local authority and the Census) More comprehensive (national) attraction and selection reporting is required.
  • Where are job vacancies advertised? (AFSA research tells us 60% of applicants come from word of mouth, and we need to think how to tackle this issue, so there is access to all).
  • Are any steps taken to ensure job advertisements are targeted and received by underrepresented groups?
  • Is a standard application form used for all recruitment?
  • Are job descriptions and selection criteria relevant, simplified and made clear to all potential applicants?
  • What training is provided to staff involved in the recruitment and selection process, and does this include training on EDI and its application to recruitment?
  • What positive action is being undertaken to attract, progress and retain Asian people to the FRS?

Older Asian people who have migrated into the UK and potentially still feel services are inaccessible to them

This segmentation creates two key areas of work, looking at the impact of health inequalities in older Asian People and accessibility to our services.

We have no direct evidence of accessibility issues in Fire, but we can make a reasonable case based on the experiences and statistics outlined in the “Neglect of older ethnic minority people in UK research and policy” published in the British Medical Journal earlier this year. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m212 that we need to do more to ensure we target older Asian people and assure they are welcomed to our fire prevention services.

In terms of health inequalities, In the UK there has been extensive work describing ethnic inequalities in health for the population as a whole, but very little work describing ethnic inequalities in later life, and it’s been over 15 years since the last Health Survey for England oversampled ethnic minority people. The last report identified the proportion of people aged 61-70 reporting fair or bad health was 34% for white English people but 86% for Bangladeshi people, 69% for Pakistani people, 63% for Indian people.

There is also a growing body of research that shows the significance of racism and discrimination to the life chances of ethnic minority people, and that these experiences directly impact on health (Nazroo, 2003). Given this, it is not surprising that the pattern of inequalities in health is also present for income inequalities (Nazroo, 2006).

The Societal Care Institute for Excellence reports that minority ethnic communities may have higher rates of poor health than the host community, and poorer people and those less well-placed to access health and social care will be more vulnerable.

Key research findings:

  • The mental health needs of older people from black and minority ethnic communities have been particularly neglected.
  • There are small but significant differences in the incidence of particular health problems among different ethnic groups.
  • There are lower levels of awareness of problems such as depression and dementia within black and minority ethnic communities.
  • Older people and their families from black and minority ethnic communities have problems accessing help from services.
  • There is insufficient evidence to date on whether integrated or separate services are more effective, but there is a need for more culturally appropriate and sensitive services.

Although the evidence summarised above helps to identify potentially important causal mechanisms, it is by no means comprehensive, in terms of Fire there is work to be done in understanding the impact of health and economic inequalities, although factors such as the impact on mobility, for example are logical considerations in terms of risk.

Actions

Collaboration

Working with specific charities and sourcing other focused third sector partners to give us access for the promotion of services.

Go to the Community

As noted in this report, people of Asian heritage are often concentrated geographically investing in developing the local infrastructure (appropriate places of worship, shops, clubs, etc.) sustained attendance and engagement with these communities is needed if we are to build trust and seek to work with them to get messages across.

External reference

Seeking access to older Asian people to talk to them about their experiences and how we can consider their needs in designing services and any issues during a response to the incident.

Tailored campaigns

Targeting safe and well campaigns for older Asian people. This may require some tailoring of our existing approaches.

Cultural Awareness

Training of staff is important, so we avoid the assumption that ‘older people’ are one homogenous group so that we are sensitive to protected characteristics. One of the discriminatory factors for many older people is that they lose identity and are labelled primarily as an older person.

Deprivation (not including homelessness)

There are definite patterns of disadvantage for people from minority ethnic backgrounds, poverty is higher among all black and minority ethnic groups than among the majority white population. (Joseph Rountree, 2011). There are also some broad patterns of difference in how people across different ethnicities appear to approach various life choices. For example, there is a greater tendency for women from some South Asian backgrounds to say that they wish to take care of the home and family rather than do paid work outside the home.

Another is the higher numbers of young people from some minority ethnic groups who go to university. There are also commonalities of experience, particularly in terms of discrimination and racism.

Housing is a key factor in how people come to be located in an area and whether they stay or leave. Living in social housing is also an indicator of overall poverty. Different ethnic groups have different patterns of housing tenure. Indian and Pakistani groups have high levels of homeownership; Indian groups are more likely than any ethnic group (including white groups) to own their own homes.

Other groups, such as the Chinese, have very low levels of homeownership and are more likely to rent from the private sector, age may also be a factor here. Figures suggest a growing number of Indian and Pakistani people are entering social housing, which may alter the future balance of social housing among these groups.

Actions

Improve Fire Safety in Social Housing

Campaigns focused on encouraging Asian people to seek fire prevention services if they are in social housing – we have no specific evidence but think we need to test whether there is more reluctance to seek or a belief that our services don’t apply if it’s not an owned home.

Protection teams working with other agencies focusing on landlords and their need to provide safe housing and where possible encouraging tenants to seek Home Fire safety visits as some of our focus is on changing the fire risk behaviour of the tenants.

Working with diverse business to get equality of access

In 2015 The “Are we meeting the needs of supporting diverse businesses to comply with fire safety legislation?” A conference hosted by the Asian Fire Service Association highlighted that many Black and Ethnic Minority businesses were falling foul of our enforcement and prosecutions activity, and there have been a number of fire-specific recommendations in the work undertaken by Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in 2018. Recommendations have been made at NFCC level, so we work together on creating a holistic approach, led by the ‘engaging with diverse businesses’ work stream. Enforcement is not always the answer. Education is key. Visiting the premises at the right times to suit the businesses. There is a need for a national Fire and Rescue Service communication strategy for working with diverse businesses – simple and safe fire precautions promotion for BAME business.

Actions

Simplicity

Ensuring information and advice related to regulations is at least presented in plain English as a minimum. Consider whether information and advice can be presented in other ways, for example using graphics or in other languages.

The terminology used in the fire service is complex, Government have produced easy read documents where similar challenges arise around legal terminology. There is an overuse of jargon and “in cultural” terms, which are not helpful and don’t translate well into different languages.

Knowledge

Business Safety practitioners need much more support and education about understanding BAME attitude to fire safety and risk. Ensure staff members engaging with diverse businesses are aware of cultural factors which could present barriers to complying with regulations. It is also recommended that staff are provided with training and cultural exposure, so they are sensitive to these factors and are aware of how to manage them effectively.

Trust

Diverse businesses may not have trust in uniformed services due to their past experiences in their home countries. Engaging with them in a more informal manner might help, and using third parties to help bridge the gap with language.

Greater diversity in Business Engagement Role x

The importance of using positive action in recruiting staff for business engagement roles. Consider including preferable or essential criteria for a second language based on geographical demand.

Collaboration

Asian communities are often geographically close, with strong relationships with cultural and faith leaders. Involve them – ask them to be our advocates.

Explore further working with partner organisations to ensure diverse businesses have access to the support required to comply with regulations. Also, ensure that business owners are aware that good quality advice and support is available, and questions about compliance to regulations can be asked without fear of prosecution.

Explore how regulatory bodies work with diverse businesses through local trade associations, community and faith groups etc. so information about regulation and compliance can be promoted through these groups. These groups are often respected and trusted amongst members of the BME community.

Audit

Create a national picture reviewing and assessing our approach to business safety aligned to the work undertaken by Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in 2018.

These avenues often support other agencies’ awareness of our responsibilities, and help initiate quicker response, particularly in dynamic environments such as in response to modern-day slavery.

Support educational business development x

Diverse businesses often have no previous fire safety knowledge and won’t see it as a priority to spend money on. If you were born in the UK, there is a chance you have experienced regular fire alarm tests and evacuations in school and or work. This provides a good education around fire safety and risks. Not everyone is at the same starting point, so tailoring your safety visits to those starting points is key – education and awareness is where we can make the biggest impact.

The importance of investing money in the development of education. Awareness is better spent than funding a costly prosecution. Reconsider how to fund some of the engagement work through business safety prevention activities. For example; consider the power of story-telling, using case studies to explain the risks of non-compliance rather than facts and figures, as business owners are more likely to relate this to their own experiences. There are also opportunities to broaden business development through our other services expertise, such as finance or procurement, as part of a programme of business engagement.

Research

Local research to understanding more about why businesses are not always willing to comply if that is the case. Make sure you put your ethnicity data to work.

Water Safety

Whilst we need better data in terms of our response and prevention activity relating to ethnicity, we are able to identify risk in terms of the likelihood of being unable to swim amongst in particular Pakistani women. Some targeted work in this area would be beneficial, whether there is a likelihood of access to water.

Actions

Improve Data

Ethnicity data is not recorded in terms of water safety, this needs to change.

Greater engagement with minority groups

There is a disparity in the ability to swim across ethnic groups. Our water safety activity promotion activity needs to consider this.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is a framework for conceptualising a person, group of people, or social problem as affected by a number of discriminations and disadvantages. It takes into account people’s overlapping identities and experiences in order to understand the complexity of prejudices they face.

This paper has not looked at the impact of intersectionality specifically, but it has detailed the impact of age and ethnicity and ethnicity in particular.

Actions

Being conscious of intersectionality is important and when we are directing the marketing of our fire prevention services, we need to recognise different approaches for different audiences.

Bibliography/Sources

AFSA (2018) Smoke and Mirrors Report. Available at:

British Medical Journal (2020) Neglect of older ethnic minority people in UK research and policy. Available at:

British Heart Foundation (2020) South Asian background and heart health Available at:

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (2021) The Report available at:

Cabinet Office (2018) Race Disparity Audit. Available at:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists 2018 Health equality report:

Corcoran et al. (2011), Chhetri et al. (2010) and Asgary et al. (2010) – links to fire risk Clark et al. (2014)

Business in the Community (2015): Race at Work, 2015. Available at:

Hastie, C. (2017) Community engagement and its role in fire prevention in a West Midlands neighbourhood. Available at:

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2015): Supporting Ethnic Minority Young People from Education into Work. Available at:

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2015): ‘Entry to, and Progression in, Work’. Available at:

Minority Rights (2020) https://minorityrights.org/publications/

ONS data

Sasayama, S (2008) Heart Disease in Asia available at:

Fire Safety and Organisational Statistics 2016-17 available at:

Fire Safety and Organisational Statistics 2019-20 available at:

Steinbach R, Edwards P, Green J, and Grundy C (2007) Road Safety of London’s Black and Asian Minority Ethnic Groups: A report to the London Road Safety Unit. Available at:

Thanks and contributions

This paper is completed with thanks and contributions from:

Manchester Fire and Rescue Service

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service

The Asian Fire Service Association

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service

The Home Office Staff Network Groups

Dr Chris Hastie

Dr Emma Dean